Respected. Dedicated. Honest.

The difference between quid pro quo and hostile work environment

On Behalf of | Jul 8, 2022 | Employment Law |

There are many different ways in which discrimination can occur against an employee while at work. Harassment is one of them and it can take a couple of different forms. Understanding the difference between the two can help you identify it so that you know what action to take in order to stop it.

Quid pro quo harassment

The relationship between the harasser and the employee is at the heart of quid pro quo harassment. It occurs when the harasser demands something from the employee and threatens them with some aspect of their job if they fail to comply. Though this often takes the form of a sexual demand, it is not limited to sexual favors.

The threat is that the employee will lose their job, a promotion, a pay raise or some other benefit over which the harasser has control. Or the threat can be the imposition of penalties, like being forced to work long hours or an unwanted shift. Because quid pro quo harassment requires such a work-related threat, it is committed by those in power – supervisors, managers, human resources personnel and others in a position to affect the employee’s job.

Hostile work environment

Unlike quid pro quo harassment, in a hostile work environment, the relationship between the harasser and the employee is irrelevant. The environment can be created by anyone, regardless of their position. And where quid pro quo harassment can occur from a single act, a hostile work environment is typically generated by a series of acts that occur over a period of time.

The harasser’s conduct must be severe enough or pervasive enough that a reasonable employee would consider it abusive, hostile or intimidating. This is why single incidents or petty offenses often don’t give rise to a hostile work environment.

You do not have to put up with harassment at work. If you’re a victim of it, you have options. Speak to a professional who is experienced in workplace harassment and discrimination – they can help you take action and make the harassment stop.